Thursday, July 19, 2012

On pushing

There are times when we, and our children, need a little nudge. A push. A " I know you can do this" or a " Give it a try."

 There are times when it's better to wait for that nudge to come from within. If you police my weight loss efforts I am likely to get mad or to sabotage. If I wait for that click, it works. I want to. I make myself.

 I have seen the same click with reading and with times tables. No matter how a teacher may push, a child seems to get these when inner click goes, well, click!

 There are also fallow times. Times when we need to ostensibly do nothing or when we need to saturate ourselves in an it a book or every Godfather movie in a row a video game, for example.

 What do we homeschoolers do then? Go with it. Go with the passion, the craze, the visible doing nothing. Because it is really impossible to do nothing and learn nothing.

Sometimes if we push we miss out on a learning experience, one that can't be replaced, one that is owned by the child. Or ourselves. One that is requiring reflection.

 So do we push our children and ourselves? Sometimes. And sometimes we hold back and just be. And sometimes we wait for that inner click.

 Tiger Mother and Unschooling Mama.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What programme?

What programme do you use for ..(insert your topic or subject or curriculum area here)?

 We don't.

 And do you know why?

 It seems so easy to pick a book or a curriculum that allegedly solve the "troubles" of how to teach x.

 But it's not.

 There is no easy way, no perfect book.

 Nothing can replace the attention of a parent or adult, responding to a child and his interests, sharing the world and their life and interests, using books and movies and activities and experiences and most of all discussion to teach.

 No curriculum can replace these kind of learning opportunities.

 So use the curriculum if we wish, but use it as an adjunct to real life and real learning, to everything else we do, directed or undirected and natural.

 In my experience, what programme works is the programme of family and life and resources around us.

With lots and lots of time.

 And lots and lots of talking.

Monday, June 11, 2012

If I could tell a new homeschool mum one thing...

If I could tell a new homeschool mum one thing, it would be... to give it ( whatever it is) Time.

Time. The biggest secret in homeschooling/unschooling.

Time for a child to mature, so that the boy who hates writing at age six
("why do I have to do this") is just given time to mature, no pressure to write, just sharing books together until one day he finds his voice and writes and blogs.

Time for the shared experiences to be shared, to shape the child, to allow him to explore, think, play, be a that he chooses, as a teen, to study ancient languages at a university winter school and needs no nagging about homework. He has had time to find out what he likes and how he learns.

Time to spend with family and friends, exploring persona (today it's Batman, tomorrow it is a Roman soldier), learning how to interact with others, to control temper, to think of others, to learn about self.

Time to read and read together without school schedules and have-tos.

Time for that stubborn toddler to grow into a self disciplined, determined young man. Time for that  very sensitive child to grow into a young man who thinks deeply and spiritually.

Time to cook, to do crafts, to play games, to climb trees, to visit and re-visit museums and libraries, to learn.

And time for mum to realise that things that seem major and  crisis making and overwhelming now will pass.

Time has been my homeschooling secret. Regardless of circumstances and living situations, I have learned to give myself and my kids time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Strewsday Tuesday..or any other day

It was Strewsday Tuesday this week.

 And I'm late again.

 Which got me thinking. What did I strew Tuesday, or any other day for that matter? What one thing has been my major strewing each day this week?

 Sunday was White Chocolate Mousse for the Ascension. We talked about adapting our chocolate mousse recipe for a white mousse. And it was successful.

 Monday I took Anthony and his friend to their Old Testament Greek class. And talked about homework.

 Tuesday I met the sons at the book launch of Patrick Madrid's new book, A Year With the Bible, looking at books and DVDs and discussing philosophy.

 Wednesday was drama class and an extra friend over, making two friends for a sleepover.

 Thursday was the library and then time to hang out at the shops. Friday? Greek homework, Mass in the Extraordinary Form, piano lessons, youth group.

 Saturday a flight to Melbourne and a day looking at op shops, retro clothing shops, an afternoon at the book store.

 Sunday... Mass for Pentecost, MIB3 and a long, late lunch.

 Tomorrow? Monday? The Mesopotamia Exhibition at the Melbourne Museum.

 And none of this counts all the little every day, incidental strewing, the conversations, the books... Strewing equals learning equals memories equals life.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Living Books

Educator Charlotte Mason talked about living books - books that are written by a single author, with passion, books that make the topic come alive for the reader.

By living books, however, I mean living, everyday, in and out, as we breathe and talk and be, really living books. The books are so much a part of your life, they are who you are, they are who we are as people and as a family.

As we re-read Where the Wild Things Are, and I share the story with a new generation at work, everyone gnashing their terrible teeth and roaring their terrible roars, on the death of Maurice Sendak, then we share not only text but memory. Not only memory but rhythm and prose and poetry. Style. Which we take into our conversation, our writing, our reading, even,  of more advanced texts.

As we climb trees today and look for Sam Gribbley trees, honouring the late Jean Craighead George and her imagination inspiring book The Other Side of the Mountain, we experience the weave and the woof of our lives as family, of reading together in childhood, of spontaneously exploring our world when connecting with the story. We remember the important element of story, in our lives and in our work.

As we look for the novel The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey today, and discuss its relevance to a talk last night by Professor Finnis on Shakespeare, Religion and Identity, we recall investigative method, connections, that feeling  how-one-thing-leads-to-another, our knowledge of English history and Shakespeare. For, after all, it is connections that make learning. We connect, we think, we remember.

This is what is needed in education. Living books. A life intertwined with books and stories and texts and images and experiences.

One is never the same after having read, shared, experienced, followed up, a good book.

After a week of national Naplan tasting, a focus with parents at work and in the news on results and on tests, I look at our circle of readers. Young men who read, who live books, who are interested in learning, who do not fit the oft cited stereotype that boys do not like reading.

I realise that a life of books, of day to day happenings related to books, of living and breathing and cooking and climbing trees with books, has made their education. Not tests and bits of paper. But books shared and lived.

This is the legacy of life without school. Living books, living education, living memories.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Oh, by the way,,,

I have a new blog. On food and fitness. 100. As in one hundred days of weight loss.

Christian funerals, heaven and hell.

A great homily today, on heaven and hell, and on Christian funerals and praying for souls.

And so I am reminded of one of my old blog posts. Of which I will re-post part... Because we all need reminders.

" Since I moved to Sydney I have been to more funerals than ever. Funerals for people I have met through church; relatives of friends; fellow parishioners.

 I Corinthians 15:51-58 "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise again incorruptible. And we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption: and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable: always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

Some of these have been solemn funerals, beautiful if one can call a Requiem Mass beautiful. Sad but reverent and prayerful, remembering the dead, remembering to pray for the dead. With the priest using this opportunity to catechise the faithful on the Church's teaching on repentance, purgatory, heaven.

 After a recent funeral, a funeral that I attended with my youngest two still homeschooling sons, a funeral at which one son served, well, while eating a late lunch at a coffee shop, we talked about funerals. About praying for the dead. And we made up little verbal lists of things we don't want at our funerals. No power points, no eulogies, no modern music, no platitudes, no slide show...just the requiem mass, please.

 My kids laughed and I laughed. But we all got the point.

 The thing to remember is that, at funerals, we are not celebrating life and loves, we are praying for a soul; our relationship with our dead Christian loved ones isn't dissolved by death; we pray for our dead in case they are in Purgatory for a while, and we ask them to pray for us.

 If anyone wants to eulogize the dead, the Vigil or, especially, the after-burial gathering are the times to do it; eulogies really are not allowed at a traditional Requiem Mass.

 This seems to anger some people but eulogies in a church often lead to serious problems. Really. I mean... the word, "eulogy," means "high praise" -- but what if the deceased wasn't so holy and wonderful and especially wasn't repentant? Should we speak the truth of the dead by speaking ill ( not a good idea, I guess, at such an emotional time) , or should we lie, in a church, for the sake of politeness and decorum? I am not a puritan when it comes to lying in general and outside a church service..a little white lie is sometimes, almost, a god-send. But lying in church? Glossing over sins? And encouraging a theologically incorrect thought.. with typical words that imply that the person is most definitely, without a doubt in Heaven, right now, even though we know that may not be the case..not that we judge the state of another's soul ... Eulogizers are often theologically incorrect , saying things that are simply not consistent with Catholic doctrine or that can lead the congregation to believe that Purgatory and Hell do not exist.

 And, to be honest, eulogies are often quite personal , personal and weird, with the deceased having requested in life that pop music be played , and similar things, things that are best left for the intimacy of a wake or post-burial gathering. Not to be present in the liturgy, for the public worship and an act of the Church.

 Ultimately, of course, how can we give "high praise" to an unglorified human being when, in a church, we are in the presence of the glory of the Blessed Sacrament?

 A traditional Catholic funeral consists of three main parts: the Vigil ,the Requiem Mass, and the Burial ...and then, perhaps, informal after-burial gatherings. The kids and I have decided that we would prefer sticking to this traditional formula, for our funerals. Sounds morbid but actually it was a good discussion, over steak burgers and chicken and avocado sandwiches.

 Better to talk about these things now, of heaven and earth and hell, than to tuck the topics away until later..a later that may be too late.

 Better to talk about liturgy and Church teaching than to hope that such things are picked up by osmosis."

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Fast Food and Holy Mass - A re-post.

I originally posted this in 2010.

And a friend asked me to re-post it. Today. 

Apparently liturgies are not much better in her parish...

Have you ever eaten a meal at McDonalds? Come on, 'fess up!

I have. Today actually.

And what do I find? Well, at first, I ate the pancakes with Vegemite because I was physically hungry after mass and a workout. And they tasted good. And then I ate the hash brown because I was feeling sad and food helps.

And then, that pleasantly satiated feeling moved to a queasy stomach feeling.

And, later, I felt hungry again. For real food. A piece of fruit. Some pasta. Anything that would fill that emptiness.

That emptiness caused by the fast food...too many calories in too short a time, fast food that fills you up, temporarily. But doesn't feed you, satisfy you, sustain leaves you wanting more.

Leaves you searching for something else. Something more real.

And it occurred to me that this was an answer to a question I heard yesterday.

The question was asked over morning tea. The others present had been to morning mass in their parish. And talked with surprise at how the innovations to the mass that their new parish priest had instituted had not brought more people to mass.
These ladies had been all in favour of liturgical dance in mass, giving out pens; handing out baptismal certificates as part of mass for all the children baptised that month; having children receiving the sacraments this year wearing a stole so they are noticed and feel important, and having a commitment card signed each get the families to mass.

Yet, no-one turned up to mass to receive their certificates. They had their babies baptised. They had been to mass and to the classes. They weren't interested in being forced to come to mass again, forced to be part of a false man constructed community just to receive the certificates.

Mass maybe was not that important to them. Or perhaps the false community building and false enforcement irked. (It would irk me).

The co-ordinator (a woman of course - God forbid that we have priests make announcements) apparently read out the myriad of names. Welcomed everyone to the community. Everyone who...was not there. Everyone who did not attend, do not attend mass, that is.

And then , at our discussion, the ladies said they were flabbergasted . 'You were right", they said.. "Getting kids to have a commitment card signed doesn't bring them to weekly mass as we thought. They just tick the box" .

"Why?" I asked, however. ( Why was I suddenly right?)

After mass, one woman said that she saw a family pull into the church car park of their parish. Mum and daughter got out, dad turned the car around in the car park. Daughter was wearing the purple stole, showing she was one of the candidates for first Holy Communion later this year. Mum and daughter ran up to the priest, who was chatting to people after mass ...and they had their commitment card signed. To say that daughter had been to weekly Sunday mass. They promptly ran back to the car and left. Without attending mass.

The priest signed the card - how was he to know, in a very large parish,. who had or had not been to mass? Although he was the priest who instituted this signing of cards in the parish, saying it had been a great success in his last parish. A great success in collecting signatures?

And so, these ladies , over a cup of coffee at Gloria Jeans, told me I was right when I said that we don 't get people to come to mass by making them tick boxes. They tick their boxes while they have to and then they leave.

The ladies asked - "How do we get these people to mass? How do we make mass more interesting?"

To be honest, I think that question is part of the problem.

We are not fast food purveyors, needing to change and add innovations to our menu and market ourselves. Our parishes are the Church. Christ's bride.

And sadly, sometimes in these people's parish, and in many parishes, this fact appears to have been forgotten. Instead, the people are fed junk food, with me-centred liturgies and banal homilies and modern, pop culture hymns ( although we have a hoard of centuries of sacred music from which to pull hymns...but that is another post) ...and people leave, barely fed, certainly not sustained, still searching for real food.

The very sad thing is, we have the real food. We have the Eucharist, the Real Presence. Yet, in some parishes , the Eucharist is not the main focus, God is not the main focus of the many parishes, the homily is no more than an Oprah-style monologue , the focus is the priest and the lay people at the altar, the jokes, the laughter, the schmaltz ( "Wasn't it lovely when Fr told that story about the baby? There wasn't a dry eye in the house???".....I'm sorry, dear, but I can have a good cry over an excellent romantic comedy and I get better music, too).

People come to mass, many times, searching or struggling. Perhaps it was a struggle to get there, to get the baby ready, to rush there before work. Perhaps, in their busy lives they are looking for some solace. They come with their joys. They come with their sorrows. They come with their hassles.

They are looking for something more. They are fulfilling a Sunday obligation.

Astonishingly they come, in spite of the liturgy that, in the parish my friends discussed, is often trivialized and banal...akin to a sad re-run of bad sit-coms. It is stultifying. It is uninspiring.

It is even capable of sapping your faith.

Just as a diet of junk food fails, ultimately, to feed us well, to meet all our nutritional needs, to develop our palates and help us discern flavours and, a diet of brain zapping, me centred, almost anything goes liturgy fails to satisfy. The focus becomes less on God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist and more on me, on you, the priest, on innovations, on being relevant...and, in trying to catch up with popular culture and in trying to force community, it fails.

Fails us by not creating real community, built on love of God and neighbour and natural bonds. Fails us by not being as good at pop culture as the rest of the world ( I last heard that song, Morning Has Broken, in the 70s and it was played much better then. By Cat Stevens. You know?) .

Fails us by not reminding us of Whom it it that we receive and why He died for us and why we receive Him and why we should go to mass.

Ultimately, the fast food, junk food mentality of many liturgies in this day and age, in our Western culture, leaves us wanting.

And this is why people don t go to mass. Well, one of the reasons. Why drag yourself out of bed to face banalities and a priest in polyester vestments telling the same jokes over and over again ( "I've heard the peanut one three times now, Fr" ), why listen to popular music , why hear what Dr Phil has to say from the mouth of that laywoman . Why push yourself to get to mass to hear talk back radio sentiments from the priest...unless we really, truly, believe that Jesus is present on our altars.

He is.

But not many know that any more, as that speck of the Eucharist on the altar has become just that..a speck, hardly noticed in the general hoo-ha of the happy, clappy banal liturgy.

So, they don't come to mass. Unless they have to.

How, then, do we get people to go to mass?

Not by jokes.

Not by making them come to receive certificates.

Not by having cups of tea after every mass, every week ..

Not by making them have commitment cards signed.

Not even by having multicultural processions.

But by prayerful liturgies. By offering something different to that which the world offers - silence, reverence, prayer, good music, adoration of God. Answers. Sacraments.

By following the rubrics carefully, for heaven's sake. So people know, without a doubt, that Jesus is present under the appearance of bread and wine. That He died for our sins, so we might receive eternal life. That He is there to heal wounds, to love, to forgive sins.

We get people to mass by prayer and education.

By being counter-cultural.

By being what we are..

The Church. Christ's bride. The Truth. Love.
We get people to church by being the Church and not impressing them with our egos ( me, me, it's all about me!).

This morning I went to mass. I prayed at mass. A reverent, solemn mass for the feast today, St Francis of Assisi. Careful attention paid to the rubrics. Careful attention paid to the liturgical arts. Gold vestments. Great homily on St Francis, and on his love and obedience. On Christ's humanity.
With the focus of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, on Jesus coming to us, on the altar, under the appearance of bread and wine.

Reading the words of St Paul to the Galations in my missal, I thought of this mass and the mass described to me yesterday.

One glories in Our Lord; one, sadly, almost glories in man.
But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 
Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. 
Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen Galations 6:14-18
To my mind, people need masses that speak to the whys of life (glorifying in the cross) and they are tired of more fast food , in their masses..and in their diets.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When they strew to us...

I'm sitting here, working on an assignment with one eye, watching an episode of  Downton Abbey with another and listening to Anthony, my youngest son. Anthony is regaling me with stories of Saki, a writer, and of his research on Wikipedia of what-happens-next in Downton Abbey. He well knows that I like to be aware of endings before I watch movies or series or before I continue reading my book. 

Alexander sends me a link to an article on why the study of Latin is important.

Greg emails me pictures of Frank Lloyd Wright's house.

Nick shares his pizza dough recipe.

And I remember the picture book "Clive eats Alligators". Just as the author ( Alison Lester) hooks us with stories of who will do what, so my sons hook me into new interests, passing or otherwise, with their strewing.

Yes, strewing.

For just as we strew to our children so they, too, strew to us.

When they were little it was a passion for Lego, for war games, for cars and motorbikes, for Biggles.

And now it is a passion for literature, for music, for movies, for life.

We strew their paths with interesting items. 

And they strew our lives with interest and love. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

A letter to a parish priest

Dear Father,

I respect the priesthood.. I respect Holy Mass. I respect freedom of speech. I like jokes, even off colour jokes, as much as the next person.

Just not in Mass.

No, not even at the end before the final blessing.

And as if jokes aren't bad enough, distracting us from the liturgy, off colour jokes about nuns and the human body are really distracting.

It does not lift our minds and hearts towards God to hear a joke in mass about a nun lifting a fig leaf to look at you-know-what.

It is inappropriate. It demeans religious. It demeans Holy Mass. It makes a mockery of the term custody of the eyes. It may even make the expression of curiousity seem justified to that thirteen year old boy searching the internet and finding a porn site. 


Just stick to the final blessing. A smile and a thank you.

Leave the off colour jokes to a different setting.

In charity, I thank you.

They don't wear rose vestments any more?

In a parish I attended on Laetare Sunday ( mid Lent, rejoice!) the commentator read at the start of Holy Mass.."Today is what used to be called Laetare Sunday. In days gone past, priests would wear rose coloured vestments ." 

Really? In days gone past?

Then someone better explain that to our Cardinal, Cardinal Pell, celebrating Holy Mass  last week on Laetare Sunday, at the installation of a new parish priest. 

They don't wear rose vestments anymore?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

O Good and Faithful Servant

We read in Scripture of the blessing of the good and faithful servant.

So why don't we reward or bless the good and faithful servant in practice, in our lives or communities and yes, even in our parishes and dioceses?

A lot of coverage is given to those amazing conversion stories, to those fantastic testimonies, the Johnny Come Lately who allegedly rose from the ashes.

Very little coverage is given to those faithful, tireless workers, lay people and priests, who serve well, day in and day out, who are fulfilling their vocations with patience and diligence and prayer. Who may not have stories of riches from adversity but who do have stories of faithfulness.

In a society where faithfulness is often decried, where the spectacular is raised on a pedestal and the ordinary is ignored, where wives are encouraged to leave loveless marriages, where people are encouraged to live for the now, who knows what tomorrow may bring, to have fun, to put themselves first, in this society we need examples of faithfulness put before us.

We need the stories of the faithful parish priest, celebrating mass, hearing confession, listening to parishioners, praying, teaching that wife in despair can see why faithfulness to her vocation is important, too. So that the parent tied down to a mortgage and a job sees the value of faithfulness to their vocation.

Ordinary people living ordinary lives need to see how faithfulness is a blessing, a reward, a virtue.

They need to see not only the story of the poor boy turned priest or bad boy turned priest, but also the story of the good and faithful shepherd, leading an ordinary life in an extraordinary fashion, with faith and with faithfulness.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Strewing their paths...late February

To strew. To lay interesting thing in the paths of our children, our families, our unschooling sons and daughters. Well, sons in my case. Or son. The lone unschooler.

Sandra Dodd coined this term "strewing" within an unschooling context.

And it works. It sparks an interest, it allows for exposure, it provides another knot to that mental hammock of information. 

Even when a parent is in absentia. As I have been in February, due to work commitments.

You know Arnie Schwarznegger in the movie Jingle All the Way, that almost always absent dad? That's been me. But at least everyone knows its only temporary (roll on March!).

And I have been strewing.  So sparks are sown without me.

Making a salt dough crown of thorns with some sons. And me varnishing it late at night and decorating the table for Lent so that is the first thing everyone sees as they come downstairs in the morning. When I am already at work. 

Asking Anthony to find an icon of Sts Cyril and Methodius while I hang streamers for St Valentine. While a very late, very easy dinner is cooking. 

Taking a Saturday afternoon to clean the garage and find interesting new-to-some books to share....Dorothy Sayers' Creed or Chaos?, Kim Philby's account of the Philby spy scandal that rocked Britain and that on which the film and book Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based, Joyce Vedrals' book The 12 Minute Workout for those sons bemoaning their lack of workout time once Uni starts, Party Shoes by Noel Streatfield ( for me! But lead to discussion and a maybe we should watch Ballet Shoes again?), an Italian Reader for Thomas who is saving to go to Rome for a Latin school in July....

Other strewing? Reading about St Wahlburga after mass and Anthony looking up Saxon inspired desserts for Sunday.

A trip to Kikki K....just walking in the door makes one feel more organized already!

Setting up games days and times to hang with friends  and lifts to and from drama and New Testament Greek class and buses to youth group for Anthony, the lone but not alone unschooler.

Making lists.....can someone make pancakes for Shrove Tuesday (Shrove Monday in this house this year!), can someone find a Gregorian chant CD, can someone vacuum or hang out laundry or post this letter and the myriad of other chores that make up Life Skills and Personal Development.

On the rare but treasured hang out with family nights...watching some of the Numbers series and discussing religion and faith and Maths and family and crime, watching Music and Lyrics and loving the dialogue, a mini  Harry Potter marathon... Deathly Hallows Part One and Two and reminiscing about the books and characters and choices.

And my kids helping me with so much Kumon work and my thank you to my kids and to my other assistants...our nearly end of Kumon dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.

This is what unschooling looks like.

This is what unschooling strewing looks like.

It looks a lot like life, doesn't it?

But life strewed with and lived with purpose and intent. 

An observer  may see no visible signs of learning (You wrote down a sneeze as Health! That tongue in cheek comment!). And yet  the observer can know that there is learning and intent. Time is structured, by interest and by strewing, not necessarily by school. And education happens. With the spark or interest in learning retained.

That's unschooling. That's unschooling strewing. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Absolute quiet.


Everyone facing one way.

The faithful.

We all prayed in sacred silence at the consecration and elevation during Holy Mass.

In adoration.

It was all about Our Lord.

And so I prayed at Mass  on Candlemas.

In direct contrast to a conversation awhile back. wherein a friend mentioned that we needed the children to perform liturgical dance in a mass that was being planned, so the "children would feel special and that it's all about them."

But it's not. I'ts not all about them. Or us. 

It's about God.

And in our busy, entertainment oriented world, how nice it is for children to be given a sacred space, a quiet place, a place to learn that they are special, with God, in adoration of God. . 

How important, too, for catechesis. 

The  sacred liturgy, the formal worship of God the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, is indeed "the privileged place for catechizing the people of God." (CCC 1074)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Strewing their paths...February

I strew many different things in the paths of my sons.. Outings, cooking, museums, libraries, puzzles, music, blogs, links, masses, prayers, statues, candles, quotes, games..

The biggest thing that I strew, though, are books.

I strew books because I love books. I love reading. Books have enriched my mind, my experience, my life.

As we start February, I have been strewing books on our dining table, near the candles and liturgical year strewing.

What books?

Saints and Art... For St John Bosco

Catholic Bioethics by the Bishop of our Diocese, Bishop Anthony Fisher OP.

Kitchen by Nigella Lawson... A great read, attractive turn of phrase, clever use of imagery, a cookbook that is a example of good writing.

The Women's Weekly Retro Cookbook (yes, I have sons who like cooking and who get into retro).

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton .. I have raved about this so much that I might as well leave it around.. Who knows who will pick it up?

And that's what happens with books in our house. Someone leaves one lying around and someone else picks it up, peruses, gets into it.

Strewing paths with books.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To ad lib....

To ad lib.

To add our own words, our own thoughts, to an occasion.

The ability to ad lib can be considered good, when one is a situation that requires us to wing it.. When a mishap occurs during a presentation, when I have to explain a little further in one of my public talks or presentations.

But even then I have to be careful that my ad libbing stays on topic, is relevant even if amusing, is not self indulgent patter but has a purpose. I am not there to deviate from the set topic.

And so, just as there are limitations to ad lib commentary in my public speaking, how much more are there limitations to ad lib commentary in Holy Mass?

You know where I am going with this.

The new translation of the missal is very clear... The priest says this. The priest says that. The rubrics do not say that one can say words of similar meaning or what one thinks is of similar effect .

It is annoying to have a priest ad lib throughout mass. To add his own words prior to and post the consecration. Even well meaning words.

No, it is more than annoying. It leads to liturgical problems, to pave the way for other priests to administer what constitutes liturgical abuse, to misguided words that can be misinterpreted and that can thus lead to misunderstandings of the faith on the part of the faithful. It can lead to something akin to heresy.

And it's downright banal and trivial and to be honest, a pain to sit through ad lib comments ad infinitum in mass, when you are trying to pray and to worship, as an individual and as part of a community.

"Liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated.... Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church". ( Ecclesia Eucharistia (52), Pope John Paul II )

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning from St Agnes

"Today is the birthday of a virgin, let is imitate her purity." (St Ambrose on St Agnes)

I read the Office of Readings on my bus trip last Saturday.

And I wondered what it is that I, a married woman, a wife, teacher and mother, can learn from St Agnes.

I think the Church venerates the saints for us, not that we become discouraged by the distance we see between their virtuous lives and our own life of mundane struggles.

But that we are uplifted by the lives of sanctity,  of hope, of faith. 

Even in times of turmoil, of fear, of temptation.

St Ambrose wrote of the trembling and hesitation and yes, even awe on the part of the executioner, he who was given the task of executing  St Agnes, aged twelve or so. 

This is the trembling and hesitation and awe we can feel when we read of the saints.. Trembling at the thought of living an extraordinary life, hesitation at the thought of living our ordinary lives extraordinarily, awe and wonder in our faith and worship.

What can we learn from St Agnes? This faith, this awe, this trembling.

And this is why the Church reminds us of the saints 

To give us mentors and encouragement. To inspire awe and virtue.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Strewing their paths...

Its that time of the week again. When we share our strewing.

My strewing this week had been both intentional and unintentional. 

Intentional strewing...strewing with a purpose or with forethought . 

This week it is a novel by Madeleine L'engle. A Wrinkle in Time. 

I first read this at age twelve. I have read it aloud to classes I have taught. I have read it aloud to some of my kids and others  have read it themselves.

Except Anthony. Who is sporadically studying physics, with occasional use of a Saxon Physics text and occasional reading of Six Easy Pieces by Dr Richard Feynman. 

His interest is not high. Hence sporadic study. So I thought A Wrinkle in Time would be a good complement. Physics related literature and a darn good story. L'engle is a talented storyteller. And it just happens to be the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of A Wrinkle in Time this year!

Unintentional strewing? Strewing and sparks that happen in every day life, almost serendipitously. 

Watching episodes of series one of Fringe, a Christmas gift. The science of the weird, of cloning, of regeneration and a FBI story to boot.

Fits in well with A Wrinkle in Time, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012



What is the role of contemplation in the life of a layperson?

It is both interior and active.

What do I mean?

There is a point in St  Bonaventure's Itinerarium that describes this contemplative life. And I  think it applies comfortably to the lives of we laity, praying and living in the world, so to speak. 

St Bonaventure discusses a moment when he was praying at the spot where St Francis of Assisi received the stigmata.  St Bonaventure saw the significance of this event in the light of humanity, of the world, of the history of the Church.  At this spot, at the point of receiving the stigmata, says St Bonaventure, "...Saint Francis passed over into God ( in Deum transit) in the ecstasy (excessus) of contemplation and thus he was set up as an example of perfect contemplation just as he had previously been an example of perfection in the active life in order that God, through him, might draw all truly spiritual men to this kind of passing over ( transitus) and  ecstasy, less by word than by example." (Itinerarium)

This is  what Thomas Merton calls  the "only one vocation". 

Wherein we are called to an interior life, to prayer, to prayerand work, to a relationship with our Creator. And then to share, pass on, the fruits of contemplation, His Love, to others. Be they our children, our family, our spouses, our friends, fellow parishioners, our work colleagues, our neighbours.

We may do this  imperfectly.  God knows I do.

We are called, in the words of Merton, " to become fused into one spirit with Christ in the furnace of contemplation and then go forth and cast upon the earth that same fire which Christ wills to see enkindled." ( The Seven Storey Mountain)

Encouraging Readers

Encouraging readers.

I hear of many ways to encourage our children to become readers.

Books on CD, read alouds, share picture books, create reading nooks, watch book related movies, buy books, visit libraries.

We do all these.

But the single biggest helper has been my example.

I read myself. 

I strew books for myself.

I create reading lists for myself.

I talk about my reading,

I share excerpts.

The kids have grown up knowing that I value reading.

Even if they never read themselves (they do!), they know reading is important, a past time, a way of opening up other worlds and other ideas. 

So, what are you strewing for yourself, reading wise, as a homeschooling mother?

Here are some of my Christmas and post Christmas reads...

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.....I love this book. I had to read it again. His description of the search within each of us for Truth  wrings my soul. It's me. It'smany others I know.  Talking with the kids today at lunch, about authors with whom we identify, about authors whom we wish to emulate ...for me it's Merton. I want to write like Merton. 

What's Eating You? by Katherine Alleume. Why do we eat what we eat? This question has puzzled the nutritionist author and she asks us to make conscious eating decisions, conscious rationalizations. A similar take to that Intuitive Eating book. But something I am still trying to tackle...I am a stress eater and there is a point where enough is enough.

Contemplative Prayer by Merton.  A deep interior life that reaches out and shares with others.

The YouCat. The "youth inspired version" of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I want to read it before recommending it to others. And the many side bar quotes have sparked discussion here....why include that? Great definition of religion (relationship with God).  Some good pre and post Vatican II stuff ( yes the Church existed pre Vatican II!). Some great quotes and some what the ? quotes.

Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille  Giuliano. A Christmas gift. Bringing style and pleasure to life. Balancing life and work. My sort of book. "Quality of life is very important in France. I have many friends who turned down promotions and more money because it would affect their quality of life as a couple or a mother. I was pleased to hear this. This is not a sign of weakness." Very true. It is not.

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker. Subtitled Reclaiming our passion, purpose and sanity....I  have read about this on homeschooling blogs and even though I am on a buying less binge, er, lifestyle, I had to pick it up when I saw it, the very last copy, at Portico Books. Why? I need my passion. I need my sanity. And I have been inspired by the few quotes I have read on other blogs. "If every mother in the United States could wrap her mind around her true value as a woman and mother, her life would never be the same.”

Read. Strew. Share.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Strewsday Thursday

It's Strewsday Tuesday!

Well, officially it's Strewsday Thursday but that doesn't fit now, does it?

What have we strewed this week..for our unschooling life?

Museums. Again.

We seem to have a penchant for museums, wandering around, looking at those displays and objects that catch our eyes.

On Friday, it was the National Museum in Sydney. We mostly explored dinosaurs and native Australia.

And the National Geographic Wildlife photo competition. 

On Tuesday we explored the Melbourne Museum. In which I was enamoured of the Melbourne Gallery....Photos and artifacts and memorabilia from old Melbourne.

I sat in a 1960s sitting room and watched old TV shows....Homicide, IMT.

I fell in love with kitchen appliances from the 50s and 60s...A cute pink Mixmaster. A cunning Spacemaster refrigerator.

Then today we visited ACMI again...a Melbourne perennial, Australian Centre for Moving Images. And again I was immersed in digital technology. Indi gaming and early Aussie cop dramas. 

Museums are like microcosms of the unschooling life. Bits of information presented here and there, glimpses of possible future interest or passions or rabbit trails, discussion starters, learning via absorption. 

Easy, interesting, family time strewing. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The word for the year...

On Facebook, my friend Julie, of Bravewriter, has taken up that idea of a word (theme, motto) for the year.

We choose our word for the year, we keep it close, it's a prompt, a reminder, something or someone to which we aspire.

But Julie has taken that idea one step further.

She has decided to, perhaps, post daily updates on her word and this her life. Daily updates on Facebook.

Julie's word is conscientious.

Mine is calm.

In the spirit of calm what did I do today?

Prayed at Mass, a reverent Mass, Benediction, Latin, a homily reminding us that yes, sin exists and yes, choices matter.

Mass and praying the Divine Office helped my inner calm.

As did being on holiday. Hanging out with family and a friend. And keeping my To Do list to a minimum.

Yes, I keep a To Do list on holiday.

I don't know how not to!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Praying the Divine Office

"I did not even reflect how the Breviary, the Canonical Office, was the most powerful and effective prayer I could have possibly chosen , since it is the prayer of the whole Church, and concentrates in itself all the power of the Church's impetration, centered around the infinitely  mighty Sacrifice of the Mass - the jewel of which the rest of the Liturgy is the setting: the soul which is the life of the whole Liturgy and of all the Sacramentals. ....

Yes, and from the secret places of His essence, God began to fill my soul with grace in those days, grace that sprung from deep within me, I could not know how or where. But yet I would be able, after not so many months, to realize what was there, in the peace and the strength that were growing in me through my constant immersion in this tremendous, unending cycle of prayer, ever renewing its vitality, it's inexhaustible, sweet energies, from hour to hour, from season to season in its returning round. And I, drawn into that Atmosphere, into that deep, vast universal movement of vitalizing prayer, which is Christ praying in men to His Father, could not help but being at last to live, and to know that I was alive."

I want to write like Thomas Merton.. Taken from his Seven Storey Mountain, this so vey eloquently describes my experience of praying the Divine Office  these last eighteen months or so.

The seasons change, I move from chilly icy winter mornings before work to warm and  snug summer evenings, from a snatched prayer in my bedroom to quiet prayer in a church, to praying the Office relaxing on the green  sofa. 

And the time passes I feel the daily prayers, joining with the mind of the Church, the prayer if the Church, praying with others praying the Office throughout the world. I feel it. I mentally comprehend it. My soul stirs.  My heart softens . And I let down those little barriers. The ones I build to protect myself, to stop being vulnerable to hurt. As if those barriers are always a good thing. 

These fences come down. Bit by bit, as I pray the Office, the Psalms, as I ponder the Readings.

Of course, my daily life happens. And the little walls start building again, to protect myself and to protect others. 

But I come back each morning, each night, to the Divine Office. And the scales, the walls, the fences, the barriers, are removed once again.

And that's why a mother should pray the Office. Even if prayed imperfectly. 

For the chance to know and adore God and to know and love others and to know  herself. 

For His Grace in her every day, never stopping life.